Nomad Mod Design Chautauqua

Blue Monkey

Archon Without Portfolio
Jul 31, 2005
Timeless Isle
Triumph of the Nomads Mod
There have been some pretty interesting discussions here and here about nomadic civilizations. There have also been some threads asking specific questions related to designing a mod with nomadic civs, such as a way to simulate seasonal shifts in resources.

The Design Issues
I think Virote does a good job of laying out the key game specific issues in the thread he started (The quotes are not placed here in the order he wrote them):

Problem: Sedentary vs. Nomadic cultures.
The challenge is hard, because this is a game that treats every player as a sedentary, agrarian culture, with large cities, and stiff borders, whereas nomadic culture is pretty much the opposite- very few permanent settlements which are small, no real borders, and they also generally occupy a much larger territory than their sedentary contemporaries.

Problem: How to handle settlements.
This means that the scenario creator is faced with two problems- either give the Steppe people large swathes of territory, but with many settlements, or give them very little territory, but with one or two settlements.
I have seen nomadic cultures represented in various ways, from huge, city-filled behemoths (such as the Tartars in MEM, or the Scythians in RFRE), to the polar opposite, being refined to a single city, from which they can launch their raids (such as the Huns were in Anno Domini).

Problem: Resources; especially with regards to building units.
Militarily, it is much easier to represent Steppe cultures- cheap, fast units, usually with good offense and poor defense, but Steppe Warfare is much harder, because unlike their sedentary neighbors, nomads are not set on capturing land and settlements, but rather goods. When the resources of the location have been exhausted, they should just try to move on.

Problem: Incorporating nomads into a historical map.
Unless the scenario is in some fairly "isolated" spot, such as Japan, or Southern India, or focusing on a particular event such as the 100 Years' War,you are going to have the problem of representing these nomadic cultures.

Problem: Ability of AI to handle a situation so different from the normal game.
Hopefully, the outcome of this thread will be a suitable way in which we can 1) find the best "medium" for representation in which 2) the AI can at least sort of cope with.

Here are the broad outlines of solutions to these problems. These become the working definition of the mod to be designed - what architects would call the client's program.

The Design Solutions
the first step is to translate the problems into an order that is more susceptible to solution
  • Sedentary vs. Nomadic cultures - Simply create a scenario/mod with only nomadic civilizations. Some of the culture traits may end up being useless; but then isn't that the point.
  • Incorporating nomads into a historical map - Make an ahistorical map representing the type of settings in which nomads flourish.
  • Ability of AI to handle a situation so different from the normal game - This seems to be the key issue that creates most of the other problems, especially the two remaining. No AI, no problem: design a scenario/mod strictly intended for Multiplayer/PBEM use.
  • Resources; especially with regards to building units & improvements - And
  • How to handle settlements - If the mod uses the rapid resource appearance/disappearance solution I asked about and shifting resources are necessary to building units, etc. players are going to move their settlements, or lose the game.

Skeleton of a Mod

Some additional design suggestions based on the program above become clear:
  • Wonders can be handled by placement of unique (or nearly so) resources, allowing one or two permanent settlements that represent the "homeland" of each tribe. Conquest of another tribe's homeland could thus become a strategic goal - gaining control of both wonders and scarce resources.
  • A tech tree that emphasizes new units & upgrade paths, and deemphasizes civic improvements (nomads don't make many specialized buildings), may be a way to put oral transmission of culture into game terms.
  • There ought to be a (still nomadic) settlement in which is built a chieftain's residence - a nomadic "palace" equivalent.
  • Loss of productivity and increasing chance of cultural assimilation (corruption as lack of cultural participation) due to distance from the chieftain would well reflect the nomadic cultural experience.
  • While such the chieftain's camp might be semipermanent there would still be pressure to move from time to time due to shifting resources and to keep it close to the center of the tribe as a whole's migratory path.
  • Sending scouting parties, or making seasonal rendezvous, to trade technologies, resources, and knowledge of tribal locations (maps) with friendly tribes is a part of most nomadic cultures. Preplaced but unbuildable roads (Songlines) could connect homelands / chieftain's camps.
  • If all civic improvements cause pollution, that could become another driving force for migration.
  • Some suggestions for Culture Groups, with examples:
    • Walking tribes - such as the indigenous people of Australia or the Sami.
    • Horse domesticating tribes - such as the Lakota or the Hun.
    • Oceanic tribes - Polynesians and indigenous "pirate" societies of the South China Sea.
    • Desert tribes - Tuareg, for example.
    • Either as a feature of developments in later eras, or as a fifth group we could have a vehicle group - chariots>wagons>flight (like those supposed Nazca balloons).

The Getting The Actual Work Done:

People with certain skill sets would be team coordinators, but I'd like to see a design team develop that makes decisions based on peer consensus and that consists of workers, not kibitzers.

Points of coordinator responsibility (facilitators, not solitary workers):
  • design of the map
  • LM terrain & resource choices
  • tech tree development
  • culture choice & design
  • unit lines & creation of needed additions. I think quite few units are already made that would be useful in such a mod.
  • settlements, improvements & wonders
  • instantiating all design decisions into the edited game rules of a biq.

Ready, Steady, ...

To kick things off here's an idea for a map:

Since it's based on Antarctica (in another epoch), the basic geography is "Earth normal". Every type of terrain can be authentically represented on it - for example deserts as a consequence of rain shadows. This map also incorporates many migratory bottlenecks that can become of strategic improvements.

Who's in for initial discussion and willing to put their hand to the wheel?
I'm in.

One thing we could do, is set the town-size cap to 1, but give an easy-to-build improvement that allows size two. This should (in theory) allow drafting from a city which is pretty much any size other than one, and could then be used to make use of this settlement which is about to be razed.
Thanks for jumping in.
One thing we could do, is set the town-size cap to 1, but give an easy-to-build improvement that allows size two. This should (in theory) allow drafting from a city which is pretty much any size other than one, and could then be used to make use of this settlement which is about to be razed.
To simulate nomads, a settler should disband a city, I think. So the settler population cost would be tied to the initial limiting size of the city. I'd like to hear more about how your idea would work out with the settler/relocation.
Well, maybe the Settler could be the drafted unit, not able to be built by any other means (due to unreachable population cost, or something along those lines). Therefore, when you need to pack up and move on, you draft as many Settlers as possible (which would typically be about one or two), and then you can raze your city knowing that you're not going to loose any population (due to all but the one default citizen now being settlers)
Hey you guys!

I was just checking what you've been brewing here, and got an idea. From my understanding, the main problem with the non-multiplayer approach is that the AI will not, on its own, abandon a city, be it through producing a settler or draft.

So how to naturally force the AI out of a city? Burn it down with lava.

As you know, you can limit city-building to a specific type of terrain, in this case, be it a volcano (changed both in name and graphics to some kind of plains, with a small campsite). These spots do not have to be rare so that there's some freedom/variation still. Eruption frequency has to be high, so that every now and then, the camp site "erupts" (can remove lava the animation) and destroys the settlement outright, also polluting the nearby lands with "overgrazing" or "erosion."

The settler(s) would be likely produced long before the eruption and already sent elsewhere to look for a new place, so when the old settlement is lost, there's no immediate settler to rebuild. The AI may go back to rebuild later, but more likely it'll look for another location first (e.g. with better resources- fortunately the AI does take them into account a lot). It doesn't matter how settlers are produced, though some kind of limited, automatic production would ensure that the human player does not get an unfair advantage over the AI (through spamming settlers to ensure survival).

It may sound a bit weird but it's all done within the civ3 rules so while I don't know how fun/practical it would be, it should work out of the box. EDIT: Also, it would work fine with "songlines", and does not rule out one "chieftain's camp" that's indestructible (some kind of non-volcanic terrain that allows city building pre-placed on starting locations) - though I think it should be ;)
Hmm, in embryo's idea, resettling the old places could be prevented by making the Clear Polution command come very late in the game.
But there's a large problem. If all (?) the settle sites will have volcanos underneath it means that several(or maybe a lot) of the undiscovered sites will already be "used" ... The randomness of the volcano's erruption will also be an issue.
:bump: if this is dead then the sub-forum should be closed, so those who want to draw ideas from it can look at it but not keep bumping it. I'd have loved to be in such a thing but this died a long time ago.
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